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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars dont miss the boat, 14 Mar. 2007
By 
Philip Solo (UK , Japan, or Thailand) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Ship Of Fools (Audio CD)
I have this, on my old vinyl collection, though interestingly enough not with this cover.. hmmm.. and in fact this really is a John Renbourn Group album with the musicians on it, not a single performer album like his many others but again, it's superb. I love the eastern flavoured title track and soon learned a guitar and sitar version and often played it live on the odd folk club night, using my ethnic drum machine. A superb enthusing track, and also loved searching for lambs, and the wonderful plain vocal harmonies on Traveller's Prayer with a haunting and memorable medieaeval tune..

..wasn't too keen on 'Martinmas Wind' and 'Live not where I love' as they are a bit 'soppy' with the female vocals and drag on a bit. Amazed as ever by John's playing acuracy, it took me some time to master the wonderful intricate guitar riff that Renbourn uses as a filler in Sandwood Down to Kyle where his voice is superb and evokes the treasured partnership he has had with the gravel-toned Bert Jansch for so many years. For me a good album but not every one a winner, but great to see him collaborating with other musicians and producing a fine CD with some novel arrangements.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fine album though slightly off course, 29 Aug. 2009
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This review is from: Ship Of Fools (Audio CD)
Music: ****, Sound: ****, Presentation: ****

John Renbourn's is a musician who can say everything he really has to say with just his guitar. That can be both a blessing and a minor problem. Obviously, it is a lonely existence in the long run. It is also difficult to built a consistent career on, decade after decade. So no one can blame the man for forming duos or joining (or indeed heading) the occasional ensemble, and for his followers it does make for some interesting variation, though for me personally the core of his work will probably always be as a soloist, sometimes with a vocalist added, since his own singing even at the best of times is only passable.

The ensemble on this 1988 release called themselves John Renbourn's Ship of Fools and, apart from the captain himself (vocals, guitar, cittern, lead guitar), consisted of Maggie Boyle (vocals, flute, whistle, bodhrán*), her husband Steve Tilston (vocals, guitar mandolin, apeggione**), and Tony Roberts (flute, alto flute, Norhumbrian pipes, clarinet, recorders, racket(!), soprano saxophone).

The style is Renbourn's well-known ingenious mix of folk and early music, with a few blue notes thrown in no extra charge. Generally he takes a back seat on this release - it is far from being a solo record. Some of the material can be found on other releases under Renbourn's name, albeit in considerably different arrangements. It is nice to hear the interplay between Tilston and Renbourn's quite different guitar styles (Tilston plays Western guitar very rythmically with a plectrum and shifts to a nylon strung guitar when playing fingerstyle), Maggie Boyle and Tilston are both very fine singers with excellent voices, and Tony Roberts adds some interesting colouring and variation to the arrangements.

However, as with similar Renbourn ensemble releases this one has its slightly problematic sides. Though the arrangements aren't in any way overwrought there is still something slightly overambitious about them, which could point back to Renbourn's years of studying musical composition and orchestration at Dartington College. It's as if he sometimes tries too hard to employ the learning he gained there and consequently there are intricacies which quite simply are unnecessary and fly too much in the face of the whole idea of folk music. It doesn't help that the group don't always sound quite capable of carrying it all out. On top of that it seems to me that too much overdubbing has been employed instead of playing together in the studio. I base that on a slight incoherence at times in the rhythmical department, and musicians and singers occasionally come across a bit indifferent to one another, which is sad, because there is certainly enough talent at play here to have made a five star album. Still, on the whole it's a very fine record with an excellent atmosphere and despite my slight criticism it is definitely a must to any follower of Renbourn's amazing career.

* Bodhrán = a traditional Irish drum, pronounced 'bah-run' with emphasis on second syllable.
** Apeggione = bowed guitar
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ship Of Fools, 10 Aug. 2012
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This review is from: Ship Of Fools (Audio CD)
I bought this on vinyl when it first came out and was pleased when I finally managed to find it on CD, which is a big improvement on the original.I've always enjoyed John Renbourn's work and this rates up there with his best,plenty of variety both of material and instrumentation.The playing,singing and above all the arranging are a delight and keep up my interest all the way through to the superb Traveller's Prayer.Sandwood Down To Kyle must have the longest riff I've ever heard,Maggie Boyle,Steve Tilston,Tony Roberts,and the great man himself are all on fine form.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars John Renbourne's Ship Of Fools - Another beautiful set of classic folk from Renbourne, 16 Mar. 2010
By 
Victor (Hull, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Ship Of Fools (Audio CD)
In `Ship of Fools', John Renbourne has served up yet another record of beautiful music, played with skill and passion by a band who are clearly enjoying what they do. This is a record of reflective, traditional and newly penned tunes. At times up-tempo jig, at times sweet soaring melodies, always superb. This is a record that always finds its way onto my CD player when I'm in a pensive mood or need to relax.

A must buy for anyone with an interest in classical English folk music, or anyone who like good music well played.
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